Buddle, Juninho goal celebration
Robert Mora

Galaxy look to continue unbeaten start

The LA Galaxy have been drawing rave reviews for their impressive play this season, but it's far too early to label them the odds-on favorites to win this year's MLS Cup.

Head coach Bruce Arena said such talk is far too premature, despite the fact the Galaxy (7-0-1) already are nine points clear of their closest pursuers in the Western Conference, lead the league in goals scored (15) and have allowed a league-low two goals.

"What's typical of the media and the press is to overreact to a team being real good or real bad," he said. "The truth of the matter is the entire league is only eight games in, and there's no clear points to be made yet. Nobody is real good or real bad yet; you kind of conclude that after 30 games, not after eight games.

"Look back to last year and see where everyone was after eight games. I would imagine not everything was said and done. I would think you look at the first eight games of 2009, then look at the end of the year, and you'd be kind of surprised by what you saw."

Fair enough.

The MLS standings at this point in 2009 revealed Chivas USA was 7-1-1 and leading the West by eight points over Seattle (4-2-2), with Houston and Colorado tied for third at 3-2-2. The Galaxy was sixth with a 1-1-6 record for nine points. The East was a close affair with first-place D.C. United (3-1-5) and fourth-place Kansas City (3-4-2) separated by just three points.

United and Toronto, in second place at the time, did not make the playoffs. Neither did Kansas City. Real Salt Lake, tied for third in the West, barely qualified for postseason and defeated the Galaxy on penalties at last November's MLS Cup in Seattle.

Arena may be downplaying his club's fast start, but he begrudgingly admitted he has been impressed.

"With the wins," he said. "There's often times where you play well and don't get a result, and we're getting results. That's what impresses me the most.

"That's a pretty good ratio, seven (victories) out of eight games."

Arena also lauded the play of Bryan Jordan, who has been asked to play the new position of right back; A.J. DeLaGarza for his ability to play anywhere on the back line; Chris Birchall, Juninho and rookie Michael Stephens in the midfield and the combination of Edson Buddle (league-high nine goals) and Landon Donovan (league-high nine assists).

Now, however, the Galaxy will have to make do without the latter pair, who leave on Sunday for U.S. national team training camp. Their potentially lengthy absences could take some of the luster off what has been an impressive eight weeks.

"How can this team adjust to that and continue to play well?" Chris Klein said. "I think that's a big challenge for us. When we think how well we've done, we can always put it in perspective.

"We don't want to put the cart before the horse. What's important for us is to play well, which we are, and continue getting better. The good thing about the team and the group we have is we realize we haven't played really, really well yet. Don't take it wrong, we've played well enough to win games but we think we know there's certain things we can do to get better.

"That's the challenge for us right now."

Arena was even more direct.

"Don't start making reservations for Toronto," he said, referring to the site of the next MLS Cup. "That's the truth. We're only eight games in. You think the Red Sox aren't going to win any games? You know there's quality there, and they're probably going to be in the playoffs.

"Just let things play themselves out a little longer."